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Team Building and Neuroscience

Team Building and Neuroscience

Building teams and developing leaders with the human brain in mind is somewhat of a hot topic amongst L&D and training folk.

The downside is that just as with past “hot topics” that infuse team building and development from time to time, it can be tricky to sort the “wheat from the chaff.”

The use of the word “neuroscience” and “brain” in connection with teams and leadership abounds, but just using the word “neuroscience” in connection with team building and leadership does not a genuine expert make.

Getting beyond the buzzwords requires genuine experts in the field, and furthermore the ability to select the more pragmatic insights and match them to meaningful day to day take away tools for the participants.

Unfortunately not every bona-fide expert in the field of neuroscience can easily pitch their knowledge at the layman or busy business person.

We have worked very closely with author and behavioural expert Peter Burow and his team at the Neuropower Group to match current neuroscience to corporate and government team and leadership briefs. It’s this ability to take the best from the science and match only the relevant components to each brief where the real power to get results resides.

Based on over 25 years of research, Peter created the Neuropower framework that explores the social systems of the brain, core beliefs and behavioural archetypes.

As an integrative model it does not exclude other models (unless the current research positively invalidates them, as on occasion it can) but rather enables a careful user to enhance their use of the tools they know and love.

For decades many providers have used established models such as Belbin Team Roles, Tuckman’s Model or Situational Leadership and experiential learning knowing that they work, but perhaps not understanding at great depth why.

Neuroscience is starting to uncover some exciting areas of social and behavioural insight that help us better understand why the good models work, and more importantly how to deploy them even more effectively.

With the right time and effort dedicated to understanding the neuroscience of behaviour, decision-making and cognitive bias it’s great to be able to have those “eureka moments” that not only confirm that an existing tool works, but that also better inform us as to why they work.

Neuropower explores in depth six major social systems of the brain (Automatic, Emotional, Intervention, Relational, Objective and Open) that profoundly influence individuals and teams as they develop, and also serve as the “emotional fuel” for individual and collective approaches to daily interactions, planning and execution.

These social systems develop for a team along a similar trajectory to Tuckman’s established “Form – Storm – Norm – Perform” model, but with greater sophistication and insight into the individual core belief preferences that people bring into the team with them.

Each system relies upon a balanced unfolding of various social of the human brain to enable people and teams to progress. Imbalance or gaps at any stage can put teams askew for best progression through the process, and ideally require revisiting and repair by informed leadership.

Underlaying the six social systems are also nine major clusters of core belief types residing in the faster and more intuitive neuro-limbic system (as opposed to the more evolved “neuro-rational” system) of the brain. fascinating also for those who are fans of enneagram work.

Humans being emotional creatures, perceived and real external threats trigger these deeper core belief types and bias observable behaviours and decision-making within teams. If these dynamics are better understood then leaders and teams can map the strengths and weaknesses of their team more accurately and counter such biases more effectively.

Enhanced understanding of what drives the team and its people at this level also enables teams to experience “accelerated teaming” with respect to their progress from being a newly “formed” team to a “performing” team.

This form of more “practical” application for current neuroscience is where there is great progress to be made in enhancing team building and leadership development processes in general. We have certainly become fans.

It does however require moving beyond the mere buzzwords to access recognised experts in the field who can marry the science to real world practice.